Why 6 people have spent nearly 8 months locked inside a dome on top of a volcano

Right now, six people are living inside a 1200 square foot dome on top of a volcano on the Island of Hawaii.

The spot is in the middle of nowhere, cut off from civilization:

hi-seas mars dome
hi-seas mars dome

(YouTube/HI-SEAS Media)


hi seas dome
hi seas dome

(YouTube/University of Hawaii)

These people are not part of a cult and they don't believe the apocalypse is looming. They're part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) research experiment. It's led by scientists at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and it's all part of the plan to get humans to Mars.

An important step in making humans on Mars a reality is figuring out how people will handle a long-term space mission, especially when they're stuck with the same people in close quarters for a long period of time. People on Mars will also experience a 20-minute communication delay with Earth.

"This research is gaining insights into psychological, social, and biological challenges of isolation and confinement," according to the HI-SEAS website.

Isolation and confinement will be unavoidable on the journey to Mars — a trip that will take at least six months.

So back in October 15, 2014, six volunteer "crew members" said goodbye to the outside world and started a simulated mission to Mars to find out how well they could cope. These six people were chosen from a pool of 700 applicants. Several are engineers, and all of them are aspiring astronauts.

Your browser does not support the video tag. YouTube/HI-SEAS Media

Now they've spent almost eight months in isolation with the same 20-minute communication delay with the world outside the dome.

They're living on rationed food and water, with shower time limits and mandatory exercise programs. They're also each conducting their own mini research project while in the dome. Some are also blogging and describing their experience. But they themselves are the real experiment.

Passing the time

What do you do for fun when you're locked inside a dome with the same other five people for months?

You play board games:

You do some experimental cooking:

You watch space-themed movies like Star Wars:

And do lots of P90X:

Your browser does not support the video tag. YouTube/HI-SEAS Mission III

If anyone leaves the dome, they must be dressed in a full spacesuit and helmet as if they were really on Mars.

The dormant volcano can almost pass as a Martian mountain.

mars dome
mars dome

(YouTube/HI-SEAS Mission III)

While the "astronauts" don't get to feel the sun or the wind on their skin, they do find ways to have fun outside:

hi seas golfing
hi seas golfing

(YouTube/Jocelyn Dunn)

The mission is coming to a close soon, and the "astronauts" will emerge on June 13.

After that much time locked up with the same people, they'll probably come out the best of friends or the worst of enemies.

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